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Goodyear Winter Press Pack 2021 - Designing a winter tire

A company founded on innovation and with a track record of awards for its UltraGrip family of winter tires, Goodyear strives to exceed market requirements and customers’ expectations when it designs and develops a new range of tires. More than any other tire, due to the extreme weather conditions they have to deal with, winter tires must be fully compliant with current as well as future regulations. They must also perform strongly to impart confidence in all winter seasonal driving circumstances.

The design and development process of Goodyear’s UltraGrip family of winter tires begins with a brief on what customers expect and need, and what the company wants to achieve. A compelling balance between tire performance criteria such as shorter stopping distances, increased comfort and mileage durability is an important part of the design and development process. 

Benchmarking is another crucial element, whether that be comparisons to Goodyear’s winter tire predecessor products or competitor lines. The final piece of the development jigsaw, Goodyear’s latest technical innovations also have to be taken into account, helping strike the perfect balance customers need and demand. Overall, the design and development process is the first, but very crucial, step in the birth of a new Goodyear winter tire.

Researching the latest trends

Development of winter tires begins at the Goodyear Innovation Center in Luxembourg (GIC*L) in the Winter and Compound Labs. Once the design brief process is complete, customer and market research is undertaken into the latest driving demands and trends. This is important, as Goodyear aims to surpass its competition in as many as 50 different performance parameters. 

“When we design and develop a tire, we want a very well-balanced product. That means it has to be good in the wet and the dry, but tuned for winter conditions,” says Sebastien Morin, Head of EMEA Consumer Replacement Product Development at Goodyear. “We set up some objectives, some of which are very aggressive and very challenging. For example, we want to be good on wet and dry surfaces, but not at the expense of mileage durability.”

Several dozen engineers, scientists and technicians work on all aspects of winter tires such as new compounds, raw materials, and tread designs. The starting point is the cavity – the hollow space inside the tire – and the carcass – its framework. The designs are drawn and then fed into computer simulations that determine the characteristics the new tire needs and replicate the testing conditions that are carried out in real-word track tests.

The first batch of prototypes

The design, development, and testing process of a new Goodyear winter tire takes around two-and-a-half years, with the first six months taken up by these simulations that produce the first batch of prototypes. “The initial six months are extremely important to develop models,” Morin states. “We already have a reference so we don’t start from scratch, because we make a successor of a product which already exists and has won a lot of awards. 

“We define new objectives for the successor product in order to have properties like better rolling resistance or performance in the wet. Based on these new objectives, we run a lot of simulations during those six months to create the first prototype that we then start to test.”

The simulations are looped again and again to get a good base tire that lives up to the strict objectives set by the design and development teams. Once the specification is ready, the first prototypes are made and the extensive two-year global testing program can begin. During the testing program, simulations continue and many iterations of the prototype tires are made, using feedback from the fleet of test drivers. “We constantly develop like this to make sure that the final product is very robust and ensures optimal performance and customer satisfaction,” says Morin. 

Compounds with unique properties

The compounds for new winter tires have a range of unique properties, and they can showcase and create huge improvements in performance and innovation. Goodyear prides itself on its compound development and its winter tires generate excellent snow, ice, wet and dry performance. However, they do this without compromising mileage durability. 

Silica is a natural element used as a filler in rubber compounds for tire treads, and this is only one ingredient that Goodyear innovates with to perfect its tire compound recipe across its range of summer, winter and all-season tires. Sustainable materials are also playing an increasingly important role, and here Goodyear also innovates. It has increased the use of rice husk ash silica, a byproduct of rice processing. This is being used to deliver similar performance as traditional sand-based silica, but with less environmental impact and waste to landfills.

In addition to continuing a commitment to responsibly source natural rubber with its Natural Rubber Procurement Policy, Goodyear is researching the feasibility of sourcing natural rubber from dandelions and has patented a biobased BioIsoprene™ monomer molecule which can aid production of synthetic rubber with no dependence on oil-based feedstock.

An original equipment supplier to many car manufacturers, Goodyear also has to sometimes tie in its new products with the launch of a new car model. “We know the timescale of the car which will come to the market at the time the tire will be launched,” Morin says. “And as the car market is moving so fast, we have to quickly adapt our tires accordingly. This means our tires have to perform well both on cars that are currently available but also on those that are coming to the market.

“That is a challenge, as we have to make sure that the tire specification will not be just a good performer for one year, but a good performer for many years. It also has to exactly fit the specification of the car, whether that be a petrol car, a diesel car, or a hybrid or fully electrified car. What we have to create when we design a new winter tire is a package which includes a combination of tire test scores, customer satisfaction feedback, and Goodyear objectives.”

New state-of-the art technologies

Heading towards the future, Goodyear is committed to designing the leading winter tires. “Our DNA to perform the best in winter will not change,” confirms Morin. “We want to challenge ourselves to adapt our tires to new vehicles that may have more weight or torque, but this will never be at the expense of winter performance.” Goodyear’s source of inspiration are the evolving needs of customers both now and in the future. So, its teams of scientists, engineers, technicians and research analysts work together to recognize and address upcoming market trends by constantly developing new state-of-the art technologies.

Click here to read the rest of the Goodyear Winter Press Pack 2021, and for a range of images and infographics to download.